A Century of Service Elgin's First English-Speaking Lutheran Church Celebrates 100 Years

Article excerpt

Byline: Jerry Turnquist Daily Herald Correspondent

Formed a century ago as Elgin's first English speaking Lutheran church, Holy Trinity Lutheran Church is proudly celebrating its centennial this year.

Its origins date back to 1902 when Ada Beck arrived from Goshen, Ind., to work at the community's largest employer, the Elgin National Watch Company.

While Beck found Lutheran churches in Elgin offering services in German, Swedish, Norwegian, and Danish, none did so in English. The concerned Beck wrote to the Rev. A.C. Anda, pastor of the First English Lutheran Church in her native Goshen, suggesting the possibility of forming an English speaking Lutheran church in Elgin.

Anda contacted the leadership of the city's Lutheran congregations, who agreed to work together to survey the needs for such a church. Plans moved forward quickly, and in October 1902 Anda held an organizational meeting at Unity Hall on DuPage Street.

Not only Anda, but Paul Roth, a senior at the Chicago Lutheran Seminary, was there.

In the months ahead, Anda and Roth alternately conducted services for the fledgling congregation. Upon his graduation the following spring, Roth was installed as Holy Trinity's first pastor.

There were 41 charter members. Within two years the growing membership had climbed to more than 200 members.

Indicative that the church was reaching people previously unserved, it was determined that three-fourths of the members had no prior religious affiliation.

The group soon began working toward a permanent home, acquiring a lot at the southeast corner of Chapel and Division streets. The property was described in church records as "a beautiful residential area and one of the best building lots in the city."

Plans moved along, and two years later, the cornerstone for the new church was laid. In January 1907, the still partially built church was dedicated.

The total cost, including the lot, was $25,000, a figure church officials estimated would have been $5,000 higher had it not been for volunteer labor donated by members.

Within a few months, a new $2,300 organ was added to the building. Half the cost of the improvement was donated by steel magnate Andrew Carnegie - the first time the philanthropist directed such funds to the city.

The congregation also undertook the remodeling of the parsonage; a house it had moved from the church site to an adjacent lot. By the early 1920s, Holy Trinity was out of debt and embarked on various improvements including re-roofing, landscaping, and enlargement of the kitchen.

Remodeling was also done to the parsonage, and on Christmas 1921, the congregation presented a new car - a Ford sedan - to their pastor to use for church business.

Over the next three decades, the membership grew and by the early 1950s, the long awaited wing was completed to serve a membership that now exceeded 1,500. The position of associate pastor also was added.

Just as the 1960s were a time of growth for the city of Elgin, so they were for Holy Trinity. "Baby Boomer" children swelled the membership to more than 1,800, and Sunday School enrollment topped 700, requiring a staff of 85 people. …